Photo Blogging – What Does Success Look Like?

Fellow bloggers, I expect a good few of you are, like me, fascinated with the stats and figures WordPress makes available to us too, to gauge how “successful” our blogs are.

For a long time with 35hunter, I was most interested in visitors and page views.

Surely, I thought, the more visits and page views I get, the more successful the blog is? 

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Well, no.

In time I’ve realised why I write and share posts here.

In short, it’s to encourage community and conversation around photography, why and how we do it, and what we’re learning along the way. 

So the predominant statistic I’m interested in are the comments.

Not just the quantity – one of the reasons I abandoned Instagram amongst other social sites was the high volumes of superficial comments and silly emoticons.

When you’re kind enough to pop by and spend time at 35hunter, I don’t want you to run past and throw a fleeting high five and a wink. I’d much rather sit down and chat with you about your unique take and experiences relating to the latest posts.

In the WordPress stats, the section that contains pretty much all I need is under Annual Site Stats.

This is how it looks as I’m writing.

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Here I can see the kind of evolution that reassures me I’m moving in the right direction.

Total comments is higher this year by far than previous years (and we’re only in May).

More useful than the total comments is the average per post. Again this seems to be steadily increasing over the years, and this year, 20+ comments per post seems a good place to be, and to build from.

I’ll be frank, “Total Likes” is a stat I’m annoyed with.

Despite switching off the “like” option on 35hunter, it seems you can’t disable the function in WordPress Reader, which is where many of you are still “liking” me. Again, back to the fleeting high fives and winking – I’d rather you sat down and talked with me (ie commented) every few posts than “Liked” every single one.

Finally, a thought on average words per post, which I think is also something that can influence people’s reading and interaction.

In 2016 I was writing a series of mini novels it seems, averaging nearly 1200 words each.

Since then, I’ve consciously tried to edit more harshly (a severity reflected in my photo editing too) to give the posts more punch and less waffle.

I’d like to be averaging between 600 and 700 words per post by the end of the year – long enough for some in depth expansion on a particular idea or two, but short enough to engage your attention right to the end, where I hope you’ll leave your thoughts.

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The point of this post is simple. For a photo blog, success means very different things to different people.

For me, the community and conversation is paramount, and something I actively try to encourage and nurture.

I’m able to see that, from the raw stats and from the regular interactions we have here, on that front I consider 35hunter a steadily growing success.

How do you measure the success of your blog – whether it’s about photography or anything else? Which stats are most useful to you? 

Please share your thoughts below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

34 thoughts on “Photo Blogging – What Does Success Look Like?”

  1. Mmmm interesting. It has really got me thinking about why I blog at all. “Success” was never really a consideration. I don’t look at the stats page much, and I switched off all notifications. I know I am guilty of pressing the like star in WordPress reader, I see doing so as a polite acknowledgement to the writer, yes I’ve read what what you wrote and thank you. I don’t often leave comments either, that’s either British reserve or Asperger’s kicking in, take your pick 😀.

    1. I see “likes” the same way, Jay.

      Success didn’t enter into my thinking when I started my blog, either. I needed a focus for my “well enough” time due to limitations of a chronic illness making paid work impossible. That has been a success in itself.

      I do love seeing that a post has more “likes” than usual, Dan. I don’t use it as a measurement of success, more an indicator of my vanity. 😆 It is definitely the comments that thrill me most but are they a measure of success in and of themselves? I can get a number of comments that are short and complimentary, which are gratifying. If someone has taken the time to write something at all, I appreciate it. A more detailed comment about something I’ve missed or misinterpreted in an image is much more a measure of success for me. Insights from another perspective can be surprising and exciting.

      1. Yes Kate absolutely, again it’s a quality versus quantity measure. I’ve seen some photo blogs where a lot of the posts have either very short accompanying writing or no writing, just a photo and it seems the comments similarly short and along the lines of “great photo!” and so on.

        There is always a place for photo blogs offering consistently rewarding photographs, but you you suspect the authors/photographers are expecting greatly detailed comments in response.

        I feel very fortunate that with 35hunter most of the time when people comment they say more than this and genuinely add to the post and the ongoing conversation.

        Again 35hunter is a place for people to be able to talk freely and in depth about what photography means for them, beyond the usual tech spiel or three word comments.

        So yes, 50 comments that say “great photo”, say, are less valuable to the author – and the other readers – than a couple of comments with a little more thought and depth.

        I appreciate all comments great and small of course, I’m just responding to your question and agree that not all comments are equally valuable to the author and fellow readers.

        What do you see your ongoing success as Kate, having enough energy to maintain your blog at the levels it’s reached?

          1. This brings an interesting point about our role as bloggers. Sometimes I feel like just writing a very short post, with a very open question, (maybe something like the recent post about the first photograph you remember) and just stepping back and handing it over to the readers to start talking. In some ways this feels like taking a shortcut, by not spending a much longer time writing a post myself before publishing. But in other ways it feels like exactly what we should be doing as bloggers to encourage community, and not just venting our own views.

          2. Yeh I guess it’s a give and take approach too – you give people something of a platform to share their thoughts, and take the opportunity to share yours (and your photos) too.

          3. Thanks Kate, yes I remembered the other day I learned that years ago – end an article with a call to action of some kind.

            With my previous blog I got to around 450 posts, and prior to that I wrote 500 plus articles for my then coaching business (around which time I studied marketing a fair bit and learned things like this) plus my original coaching blog which had a few hundred more posts.

            So I’ve had a bit of practice ha ha!

    2. So why do you have a blog Jay?

      I use the notifications within WordPress mostly now. I was using the email notifications but was checking too often.

      Doing it all in WP means I can go in once or twice a day and respond to a batch of stuff in one session, which is more satisfying and efficient in the long run that skipping in and out throughout the day.

      1. A very good question indeed. I started blogging about 15 years ago (other blogs obviously) but I’ve completely forgotten why I started now. I think I blog out of habit though I have been thinking about giving up for a while, maybe now is the natural time to stop?

        1. With any kind of public publishing venture I think we need two things to continue doing it – 1. A purpose. 2. To enjoy it.

          Sometimes 1 and 2 are the same thing. You can carry on happily if you have 2 but not 1. But If you lose number 2 it’s very difficult to continue, and without 1 or 2, well, maybe if I was in that position I would stop.

          This is what led me to stopping online ventures before – previous blogs, an artist community I ran, various social media channels… I lost the purpose (put another way, I felt my time would be better spent elsewhere), and I wasn’t enjoying it.

  2. Ah that question: Why do you blog, what do you expect to get out of it?

    I am guilty of checking the WP stats multiple times per day. Of course if you write stuff and publish it you’d like to know that some people read it. Why do it if nobody’s interrested?

    For me, the reason I write a blog is that I have ideas that I’d like to bounce off people, to see how they are received and to get useful comments. And of course the purely selfish drive to show off my photos…

    As for the ‘likes’, I turned them off for some time, but as I think like Jay in the comment above, I ‘like’ posts to acknowledge that I read it and found them interresting. Sort of like a thasnk you to the author. I never ‘like’ automatically without reading and even thinking a bit about a post.

    And I like if others ‘like’ what I do and spend some time, perhaps leave a comment.

    What I count for my blog is in fact the ‘visits’, the actual times people ventured onto my blog to check something out and perhaps eave a comment.

    My blog went from 500 visits in 2015 to 10000+ in 2016 and 30000+ In 2017. For 2018 I’ll not better that count by all probability and that’s OK for me.

    1. This reminds me of a marketing article I read years ago by one of the gurus at the time. He said it’s all well and good having the “traffic” side of an online presence cracked, so people are flooding to your site. But the most important question you need to ask in your whole marketing ethos is “what is the one thing you want people to do when they arrive at your website?”

      It might be subscribe to a newsletter, to the blog, download a free book, go to your YouTube channel, or many other things.

      The important thing is to focus on that one thing and do all you can to achieve that.

      Now, we’re not running commercial, profit based blogs of course. But I think it’s still very useful to keep this in mind.

      For me, the answer is I want people to join the conversation in some way.

      This is why I try to encourage leaving a comment at the end of every post with a question and a suggestion (“share your thoughts below…”) rather than just end the article.

      I also mention ticking the follow conversation box, because I think many people leave a comment on blogs then never visit the blog again.

      (And personally I find it very annoying when you leave a comment on someone else’s blog and they respond to months later when the impetus is lost, or not at all, which I just find a bit rude.)

      (Also, there are a few other non-WP blogs I’ve enjoyed posts on, commented, but then not been able to figure out how to follow. They’re on a platform called squarespace I think, where you have to sign in to comment (or do it as a guest) too. I find it very un-user friendly and don’t understand why it virtually discourages any interaction. I don’t follow those blogs because I can’t figure out how to do so without revisiting every post you comment on just in case there’s a reply.)

      Did you have a figure in mind for the number of visits before you started blogging Frank or has it just evolved to this point and you’re happy with it?

  3. Dan, I don’t think that your give yourself enough credit for your growing success:

    – your choice to focus on the esthetics, the “art” side of photography rather than the hardware (or post-processing software) is a rarity among public venues, and a very big plus;

    – a great deal of it is likely due to your personal style, especially in exchanges with commenters. You engage your readers with respect and dignity. This is in gross contrast to the gladiatorial atmosphere, sneers, and free exchange of vitriol seen in many virtual gathering places where the weather forecast is always sturm-und-drang, with no umbrellas and few constraints on deportment.

    1. I agree about the vitriol in some blogs being ugly and astonishing, William. I visited a new blog in response to them “liking” one of my posts. I couldn’t believe the language that was used (extreme expletives abounded), the negativity and arrogance but what really threw me was that the author had hundreds of likes and dozens of comments. Ugh. 😑

      1. Kate, again pure numbers mean very little. I’ve stumbled across a number of innocuous seeming YouTube videos for example where the comments have descended into vitriolic political rants amongst other things, dozens, even hundreds of them. Again I’m fortunate to have a very intelligent and thoughtful readership here!

    2. William, thank you for your kind words and ongoing support.

      I do try to make 35hunter different by not being just another blog that reviews old cameras in a dull and technical way, then shares a few uninspired photographs the writer took just to have some kind of test shots to show the reader. I don’t see how this helps anyone.

      The best review of a camera (in my eyes) is to explain why it delights you and feels like a long lost lover, not just regurgitate the manual specs about the shutter speed range or the size of the sensor. And then share some of the very best photographs you have made with it, not mediocre “test shots”.

      I have a friend of Flickr who’s partly responsible for me buying at least a couple of dozen film cameras (especially compact point and shoots that cost a fiver or less!), because he seems to be able to conjure excellent images from virtually all of them. And he speaks about the feel of a camera not just tech spec.

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/deafburglar/

      I steer well clear of forums too, so dull, and like you say, full of competitive comparisons between shots of brick walls. Where’s the art, where’s the passion, where’s the soul?? What’s the point?

      1. Ah. Christos Theofilogiannakos. Not to deflect the topic, but one of the best compositional “eyes” out there. Also spurred me to search for a working Canon Sure Shot again, but alas, what I needed was his instinct and talent.

        1. Yes, completely agree. For four or five years I’d say there were two people I kept returning to the conversation/comments side of Flickr for – Christos for his photos, knowledge of cameras and general intelligence, and Paulo Moreira for his wit and even more vast than Christos’s knowledge of cameras, lenses and photographic history.

          Sad that both of them are seen there far less these days.

  4. Dan, WHen I was into blogging I was like you and loved people’s comments and interactions. As I slowly lost interest in blogging I got down to one faithful commenter and she and I had the most amazing friendship. As you know Dan, I almost always take time to comment on your blog but please don’t dismiss the “likes” and “winks” as some people don’t have the time to comment or more likely don’t like to leave a comment as they find writing difficult. I have learnt a lot about lurkers over the years and the “likers” xoxo susanJOY

    1. “The Lurkers And The Likers” – thanks Susan, there’s a new draft blog post right there!

      Do you remember on CCS how I was always trying to encourage the lurkers to comment! We had at one point something like 1200 members and probably only 25 regular commenters.

  5. I like your blog Dan, though I’ve never “liked” any of your posts 😉

    Building a community which isn’t all tech and testosterone is something to be proud of.

    1. Thanks Tony, for your comments and support here, and for not liking me. 🙂

      Another thing with a lot of photo blogs and sites is how it’s 99% male. What’s that about? I’m more interested in the artistic side and love having more of a balance of genders here with regular female commenters like Susan, Kate (Photobooth Journal), Melissa, Heide and more.

      1. I don’t know, but it’s not just photo blogs. It’s any kind of forum where technical things are discussed. Certain types of men seem able to turn discussions any kind of technical issue no matter how trivial into an obnoxious dick swinging competition.

        1. Well that’s one way of putting it! I think a certain type of discussion is much the same regardless of the kit involved, be it cameras, cars, hi-fis. It’s just another gadget, and the pursuit of art and beauty is never a consideration. Not the sort of conversation I find interesting or useful (to me).

  6. There is certainly more enjoyment in having people engage with their thoughts but my posts tend not to be that wordy. ‘This is where I took this picture and here it is’ mainly 🙂
    For this reason I leave the ‘Like’ button on.
    I understand – because I often don’t have the mental energy to think things through or say much myself – that a press of ‘Like’ to say ‘I came and saw this and I liked it and I want to show some support’ is as much as some people want to do that day.

    1. Thanks Bear for your comments. I do appreciate that a “like” is a way to register some form of acknowledgement. I just prefer myself to go back to a post and leave a comment when I have more time/energy, if I felt the post was worth commenting on. Again I feel (for me as a reader) it comes down to limiting our interactions and reading online, and making those we do have count more. Reducing the quantity to increase the quality.

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